“Here’s an odd thing,” he said. “I know damn well that copy of Cromwell was on the shelf because I saw it there last night. It’s not there now.”
“That’s nothing,” said Quincy. “You know how people come into a second-hand store, see a book they take a fancy to but don’t feel like buying just then, and tuck it away out of sight or on some other shelf where they think no one else will spot it, but they’ll be able to find it when they can afford it. Probably someone’s done that with your Cromwell.”
“Maybe, but I doubt it,” said Mifflin. “Mrs. Mifflin says she didn’t sell it this evening. I woke her up to ask her. She was dozing over her knitting at the desk. I guess she’s tired after her trip.”
“I’m sorry to miss the Carlyle quotation,” said Benson. “What was the gist?”
“I think I’ve got it jotted down in a notebook,” said Roger, hunting along a shelf. “Yes, here it is.” He read aloud:
“The works of a man, bury them under what guano-mountains and obscene owl-droppings you will, do not perish, cannot perish. What of Heroism, what of Eternal Light was in a Man and his Life, is with very great exactness added to the Eternities, remains forever a new divine portion of the Sum of Things.
“Now, my friends, the bookseller is one of the keys in that universal adding machine, because he aids in the cross-fertilization of men and books. His delight in his calling doesn’t need to be stimulated even by the bright shanks of a Coles Phillips picture.
“Roger, my boy,” said Gladfist, “your innocent enthusiasm makes me think of Tom Daly’s favourite story about the Irish priest who was rebuking his flock for their love of whisky. ‘Whisky,’ he said, ’is the bane of this congregation. Whisky, that steals away a man’s brains. Whisky, that makes you shoot at landlords—and not hit them!’ Even so, my dear Roger, your enthusiasm makes you shoot at truth and never come anywhere near it.”
“Jerry,” said Roger, “you are a upas tree. Your shadow is poisonous!”
“Well, gentlemen,” said Mr. Chapman, “I know Mrs. Mifflin wants to be relieved of her post. I vote we adjourn early. Your conversation is always delightful, though I am sometimes a bit uncertain as to the conclusions. My daughter is going to be a bookseller, and I shall look forward to hearing her views on the business.”
As the guests made their way out through the shop, Mr. Chapman drew Roger aside. “It’s perfectly all right about sending Titania?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” said Roger. “When does she want to come?”
“Is to-morrow too soon?”
“The sooner the better. We’ve got a little spare room upstairs that she can have. I’ve got some ideas of my own about furnishing it for her. Send her round to-morrow afternoon.”